GOD: THE FULLNESS OF LIFE

            God is the “fullness of life” (Jn 5:26). Jesus described the Father as the “living Father (ζῶν πατὴρ)” (Jn 6:57). Psalm 36:9 says, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” The Son is of the same essence (homoousios) with the Father. Paul said, “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col 1:19). Therefore, John 1:4 says, “In him was life.” Jesus said, “I am…the life” (Jn 14:6). The Spirit is “the Spirit of life” (Rev 11:11). Since God is the fullness of life, there can be no potentiality in him. As John Gill wrote, “being actus, purus, et simplicissimus; he is all act; and activity supposes life and operations; power, such as God performs, almighty power, or omnipotence.”[1]God, the fullness of life, is the supreme being. Everything about him then is boundless since he is the fullness of life.[2]

            Since God is the “fullness of life” he is categorically and metaphysically distinct from creation. Schleiermacher helped to illustrate this principle in a postscript of The Christian Faith titled “The Unchangeability of God.” Schleiermacher affirmed that “If the idea of eternity is thus conceived, there is no reason to introduce unchangeability as a separate attribute: it is already contained in the idea of eternity.”[3] If God is outside of time and time depends upon him, then of course there can be no change in God. Schleiermacher concluded that “no religious emotion shall be so interpreted, and no statement about God so understood, as to make it necessary to assume an alteration in God of any kind.”[4]

            Neo-Apollinarianism assumes a position in which God has a potential of and for life but not the unchangeable fullness of life. The rejection of classical theism by Moreland and Craig is demonstrated as they reject divine simplicity. They said simplicity must be rejected because “to say that God is his essence implies that God cannot know or do anything different than what he knows and does.”[5] However, this critique should be turned on its head. If God were to know or do something other than what he knows or does, this would imply that God had changed his mind and was therefore not truly omniscient, or that he did something that was less than his nature or that he grew and did something more than what he was previously capable of doing. With just their rejection of divine simplicity, they have affirmed or at least implied their rejection of immutability, impassibility, and timelessness as these doctrines are classically presented. 

            The doctrine of God which Moreland and Craig present is deficient. The maximally great nature of God can be seen even in the reasoning of Schleiermacher. Schleiermacher based his theology on the “absolute feeling of dependence” in creatures. Theology, Schleiermacher reasoned, was the result of reflection of creatures on how they depended upon God. Schleiermacher rejected both the methodology and conclusions of classical theism.[6] Rather than exegete the relevant biblical texts, study the metaphysical revelations included in the divine names, or even examine the mighty works of God, Schleiermacher began his study of God with the human “feeling of absolute dependence.”[7] While this methodology should be rejected, Scheiermacher helped to explain that God must be the maximally great being. God is omnipotent and eternal because creation experiences dependence upon him. Creation is the antithesis of God—the dependent rather than the provider. 

            Schleiermacher went on to reject any concept of potentiality in God. He wrote: 

 The idea of a potentiality outside the sum of the actual has no validity even for our minds; for not only does the religious self-consciousness not lead us to such a point, but, in addition, however we arrived at it, we should then have to accept a self-limitation of the divine omnipotence which can never be given in experience. Nor can we conceive any ground for such a self-limitation, unless that which is thought of as potential could enter into existence, not as an increase, but only in some way or other as a diminution of the actual, whereby the whole assumption is destroyed.[8]

Schleiermacher recognized that God could not be limited, not even self-limited, because he is the maximally great being upon which creation rests. Schleiermacher explained that the typical explanation of God’s omnipotence as the ability of God to effect all that is possible should also be rejected because “the entire omnipotence is, undivided and unabbreviated, the omnipotence that does and effects all.”[9] The omniscience of God was also described in Schleiermacher’s description of God’s will when he said that “it is the divine will embracing the whole framework of mutually conditioning finite being: and this naturally is the absolute will, because nothing conditions it.”[10]

Schleiermacher went on to clarify that God’s will, power, and actions are inseparable and eternally the same. He wrote, “how should a true and real will be inactive unless it lacked the ability? But it is to be noted that the one all-embracing divine will is identical with the eternal omnipotence….what seems to resist or repress the divine will is always simply co-operation in its temporal fulfillment.”[11] Schleiermacher, in his discussion of creaturely dependence and divine fulfillment, has explained why God must be the maximally great being.

This maximal greatness is necessary to comprehend the incomprehensibility of God. God’s communication with his creatures constantly revealed his otherness. Sonderegger wrote, “In his condescension to his creatures, the Lord demonstrates Himself always as the One who is the much more, the One exceedingly beyond, even in His Presence. Always He is the Greater…inexhaustibly More Gracious, More Powerful, More Real.”[12] Even in the things that are revealed to readers of Scripture, “God is always immeasurably more than the Perfection revealed to us.”[13] God’s knowledge is likewise perfect and full. Sonderegger said, “God does not bring to mind things and events and possibilities; He rather is this Knowledge, the Radiance of His own Being.”[14]  

Moreland and Craig reject this notion of God. For them, God is not simple, impassible, or truly omniscient. This Neo-Apollinarian doctrine of God presents a God who is in time with creatures and dependent upon creatures for the fulfillment of his knowledge and does not know reality as a certainty until after events have transpired. Such a doctrine of God is out of step with Scripture and the great tradition.  

             Neo-Apollinarianism must be rejected because, in its paradigm, God is less than fullness of life and is therefore less than the biblical doctrine of God. For example, despite multiple claims of divine immutability in Scripture, Moreland and Craig boldly affirmed that immutability should be rejected because “there are no good reasons for adopting so radical a doctrine” and “there are good reasons for rejecting it.”[15] This rejection of immutability demonstrates their rejection of biblical teaching (Mal 3:6; Num 23:19). They reasoned that divine simplicity should be rejected because “to say that God is his essence implies that God cannot know or do anything different than what he knows and does.”[16] It seems then that they would have God be something other than God or at least this is required for their Neo-Apollinarian doctrine to be tenable. 


[1] John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity: vol. 1, 71–72.

[2] As the fullness of life, God cannot be anything less than “fullness.” Barth was right to say that God “In Himself He cannot, perhaps, be someone or something quite other, or perhaps nothing at all” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II.1, 88). Barth, somewhat following the experientialist theologians who proceeded him, then went on to say that God could only be known in his works rather than also in his nature (theologia). Barth’s work helped set the trajectory for those who ignore or deny the essential doctrines of aseity, simplicity, and immutability because these are not so easily demonstrated by God’s works. However, these doctrines are affirmed clearly by propositional truth claims in Scripture. Barth was right to urge the study of God through his works, but the classical method of studying God by his attributes revealed in propositional statements and in God’s names should proceed the study of God’s nature through his works. 

[3] Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, 206.  

[4] Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, 206.  

[5] Moreland and Craig, Philosophical Foundations, 879.  

[6] Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, 194-199.

[7] Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, 200. 

[8]Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, 213. 

[9] Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, 214.

[10] Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, 216.

[11] Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, 218.

[12] Katharine Sonderegger, Systematic Theology Volume 1, 128. 

[13] Katharine Sonderegger, Systematic Theology Vol 1, 128.  

[14] Katharine Sonderegger, Systematic Theology Vol 1, 336.  

[15] Moreland and Craig, Philosophical Foundations, 879.  

[16] Moreland and Craig, Philosophical Foundations, 879.  

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